Luis Enrique Could Revitalise Chelsea

Despite his FA Cup final success, it still seems inevitable that Antonio Conte is destined to be relived of his managerial duties at Chelsea Football Club.

A front runner for the Italian’s job could be former FC Barcelona boss Luis Enrique.

The Spaniard has taken the last year off, after spending three years at the Camp Nou.

He enjoyed a 76% win rate with the Catalan giants and helped them to two La Liga titles, a Champions League triumph, three Copa del Rey wins and a FIFA World Club Cup.

Enrique was the manager that seemed to get the most out of the MSN (Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar) frontline. A times they were unplayable. Although it should be noted that the gaffer didn’t always see eye to eye with his troops.

At Barca, Enrique had the balls to change things tactically.

It wasn’t always appreciated but ultimately it brought glory back to Barcelona and they needed to step away from the full 1oo% tiki-taka style that had worked previously but was dated by the time Enrique arrived in 2014.

Luis likes a fast attacking policy. While possession was still important, it wasn’t as vital to his system as it was under Pep Guardiola. It was basically about getting the ball to one of the front three as fast and as efficiently as possible.

Instead of keep ball, Barca were now more suited to a souped-up counter attack play and it worked wonders.

That kind of system could do wonders for Chelsea and it might bring an exciting  brand of football that might keep owner Roman Abramovich happy as long as the Russian can re-enter the UK and trophies can follow Enrique to South West London.

An attack-minded philosophy could also see Eden Hazard more inclined to stay at The Bridge.

The approach of getting the forwards involved in dangerous positions as soon as possible, could get the most out of Hazard, Pedro, Willian and even Alvaro Morata.

The Spanish hitman Morata didn’t enjoy the best of debut seasons but he showed enough to suggest if he  can regain his confidence then he’ll score goals in the English Premier League. Working under the fellow Spaniard could really boost the twenty-five year old’s Chelsea career, in my opinion.

Defenders like Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and David Luiz would also flourish under Enrique as they could come out of the back with the ball and provide dangerous passes for a fluid, speedy front three.

You’d also imagine that Chelsea would offer the new manager a healthy wage packet and a strong transfer budget that would appeal to the coach.

I think a move to England and pitting his wits against some of the best managers in the world would also attract Luis Enrique. I have a feeling that he’d love to go head to head with Guardiola, as he’s been somewhat in his shadow since they both became bosses.

Although they both have a strong respect for one another, with Pep saying this about his former teammate:

“Luis Enrique is one of the best, best, best managers. I know him very well. He is a friend of mine. I know he can do whatever he wants”

Chelsea and Enrique could be a marriage made in heaven. If The Blues do decide yet again to go hunting for a new manager yet again this summer.

Eden Hazard Is The One Star Chelsea Can’t Afford To Lose This Summer!

Eden Hazard was once again the difference maker for Chelsea as they claimed the FA Cup in a win over Manchester United at Wembley.

There’s no doubt that ‘The Blues’ have plenty of stars in their squad but the Belgian maestro is the world class diamond in Chelsea’s ranks.

Every summer sees the attacker linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge. La Liga giants Real Madrid are constant admirers, while recently Premier League champions Manchester City have been credited with a serious interest in the creative talent.

In the past, Chelsea have managed to keep hold of their number one star but that might not be easy this summer.

The London side didn’t managed to break into the top four in England’s top flight and that obviously means the club won’t be in the illustrious Champions League next season, that’s the second time in the last three years they’ve failed to qualify for UEFA’s elite competition. You’ve got to imagine an ambitious footballer like Eden wants to add a Champions League winners medal to his CV.

While other players have struggled this term, Hazard has been consistently very good.

In fifty-one appearances this term, Eden managed to grab seventeen goals, at least seven assists and he won eleven man of the match awards.

He holds onto the ball with ease as his close control is superb. Only Neymar and Lionel Messi made averaged more successful dribbles per game.

The forward glides across the turf, makes lovely key passes, withstands heavy challenges and he seems to easily find space as he moves freely around the opponents half of the pitch.

The twenty-seven year old is an extremely smart footballer, he’s not selfish and he links up well with main strikers.

He’s a game changer, even in the biggest of occasions and that’s the reason why Chelsea can’t afford to sell the world class operator. They will want to win trophies again next year and look to regain their Premier League crown and to do that they’ll need a player like Hazard; a leader who can lead by example.

You’d imagine only a huge summer spending spree and maybe a change in manager will be enough to convince Eden Hazard to stay at Chelsea. He will want to feel as though the side can challenge again for the title next season and beyond.

He recently said:

“Look, I’m going to finish the season first, then play the World Cup and then I’ll leave on holiday,”  

“We’ll see what happens next. I haven’t thought about it yet; I have another two years’ contract with Chelsea. I am very happy. I just think about the end of the season and the World Cup.”

Chelsea will hope that he is ‘very happy’ at The Bridge and that will be enough to have him blank any potential suitors that may come calling for Hazard this summer.

Man United Will have To Act Fast In Transfer Market To Get Fans Onside

Manchester United ended their season with a whimper. They were lacked any real inspiration as they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

That loss means that the Red Devils ended the 2017-18 campaign without winning a trophy.

Now they were runners-up in both the Premier League and the FA Cup but that hasn’t been enough to convince some Man United fans that sufficient progress is being made under manager Jose Mourinho.

The club probably have to enter the transfer market quickly this summer to regain interest from their large fanbase.

Mourinho will also need to learn that his United squad play better without the shackles on. The Portuguese boss likes to be more pragmatic with his style and that doesn’t sit well at Old Trafford.

The players seem to struggle when their told to be cautious in their approach. The home support also feel very uneasy watching calculated defensive football.

United showed at times in the last campaign that they can be scintillating when going forward without any restrictions. Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial Romelu Lukaku and Co started the season with a bang and it looked like United would be more attacking throughout the campaign.

Then Jose’s instincts kicked in and it became too confused and negative.

The winter purchase of Alexis Sanchez was meant to be a morale boost, yet even the Chilean seems lost on the park not knowing whether to attack or stay in a constant state of being in defensive mode.

When you look at the squad, then ironically it’s the backline that needs to be strengthened the most.

Eric Bailly is probably the best centre-back at the club but injuries and an issue with Mourinho curtailed his appearances for the Red Devils.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones still can’t offer enough consistency throughout a whole year. They both seem to suffer from confidence issues and make poor decisions/mistakes, Jones summed that up yesterday with his silly challenge on Eden Hazard that gave Chelsea their penalty at Wembley.

Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind had an injury plagued seasons and Victor Lindelof didn’t look at ease during his debut season in the Premier League.

So I’d guess a new centre-back might be required.

Matteo Darmian hasn’t managed to dislodge Antonio Valencia from his right-back spot and the Italian will no doubt head back to Serie A this summer. Jose will probably want to sign another right sided full-back to offer his captain sterner competition.

Ashley Young has been dependable in the left-back role but he’s a seasoned campaigner who isn’t getting any younger and has had his fair share of injury setbacks over the years too. Luke Shaw is clearly not fancied by Mourinho and it will be best for all concerned if the England international leaves this off-season.

Juventus’ man Alex Sandro has already been heavily linked with a move to Man Utd. While Celtic’s Kieran Tierney has also been talked about as being a transfer target for the English giants.

Speculation surrounding Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Pogba have been rampant all year long. If a couple of them were to leave, then more midfield replacements will need to be found.

Martial is another footballer currently being continuously linked away from Old Trafford. If they were to sell the French forward than surely another goalscorer would need to be added to boost the attacking ranks.

I predict that Manchester United will once again be big spenders in this transfer window. They’ll need to bring in some big talent to re-energise their loyal support.

But Jose Mourinho and his board have to also realise that the standard of football has to improve too. Improvements need to be made and it has to happen fast to gain momentum or Jose will suffer during his third term in charge!

Callum McGregor’s Getting Better & Better For Double Treble Winners Celtic

Callum McGregor managed to settle the nerves as he scored the opening goal in the Scottish Cup final as Celtic went on to secure a second domestic treble in a row!

The attacking midfielder is fast becoming a bit of a talisman for the Parkhead side and a player for the big occasion.

In all competitions this season, McGregor has appeared for the Hoops on fifty-five occasions and has also scored twelve times. As well as his goals, the midfielder has also provided assists and played his part in many build-up plays that sees others scoring.

McGregor was the only man in the Celtic squad to score in all five competitions during this term.

Other midfield stars like Scott Brown, Tom Rogic and Oliver Ntcham have deservedly received many plaudits this term but I sometimes think McGregor doesn’t always get the credit his performances deserve.

Maybe it’s because he’s came up through the youth ranks, sometimes we forget the hard journey these boys have to go through to get into the first team and get caught up with others that came in for transfer fees.

It’s not that the Celtic fans don’t appreciate McGregor, they do, but I wonder if they sometimes don’t realise just how good a talent he is. Although I think more and more are starting to see it.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers certainly sees it:

“Yeah, he’s a player who can have real longevity here. If you know football, you know he’s a top player.”

“He can dictate a game, he has courage to play and he plays with a technical simplicity.”

Plus let’s not forget that the twenty-four year old can still get better.

I love the fact that the Glaswegian times his runs perfectly. That allows him to get into space in tight attacking areas and by the time his marker notices he’s no longer there, Callum has got his shot away. It shows us what an intelligent player he is.

He’s also managed to show the composure needed to get the important goals.

These are brilliant traits for a supportive attacker to have in a winning side. It reminds me a bit of Teddy Sheringham in his heyday.

Another strong quality Callum has; is his versatility. That’s a gift for a manager to have in his side and it should provide the player longevity in his career.

I think he’s started to add more consistency and for me, he just keeps improving all parts of his game. He has a strong work-ethic that has impressed his boss and he is assured with the ball at his feet.

You can tell that midfielder enjoys playing his football at Celtic Park and, along with his teammates, he’s developed that desire to keep on winning matches and trophies!

His performances have been top drawer this season and that’s also seen him break into the Scotland squad. Hopefully he’ll soon be shining as bright for his national team as he has done for Celtic in recent years.

I think next term could be his best yet in a Hoops jersey and surely that will see him up for the player awards come this time next year!

 

Would Mauricio Pochettino Be Foolish Enough To Swap Spurs For Chelsea?

Speculation in social media and traditional media has been rife in recent weeks suggesting that Chelsea might poach Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Even clinching the FA Cup tomorrow might not be enough for Antonio Conte to save his job at Stamford Bridge and to be honest I’m not fully convinced the Italian wants to stay on. He’s been in a major sulk for most of this season and has continually attacked those in his own team, whether it be players or those in the club’s hierarchy.

Some suggest that Argentinean Pochettino could be willing to listen to a Chelsea offer. It’s believed that the Spurs coach could be growing impatient by the club’s transfer policy and unwillingness to seriously compete with the big boys financially. He could feel that’s the biggest stumbling block that needs to be removed for Tottenham to finally clinch some major silverware.

But would the forty-six year old really swap North London for South London?

Obviously he’d be guaranteed a big pay day and a massive bumper war-chest to go after some world class talent in the transfer market.

He’d have a pretty strong squad already at The Bridge, they won the Premier League just last season and the majority of them probably just need re-focused for the year ahead.

They are a team that are accustomed to winning big trophies and built for that purpose. The owner clearly enjoys winning and will put his hand in his pocket if required to get the side back on top.

The drawback in having such an ambitious owner is that he can be quick to fire you if he doesn’t see instant or continued success.

Roman Abramovich has replaced a manager on eleven occasions in the last fifteen years! It doesn’t matter if you’ve bagged him a Premier League or Champions League trophy during your spell at the club, if it’s not right at that moment then he’ll pull the trigger.

Like Pochettino is now, Andre Villas-Boas was seen as a very talented coach when he arrived at Chelsea in June 2011. Yet the Portuguese boss, who would later manage Tottenham, was sacked before he saw a season out.

A huge reason for many of these sackings, apart from Roman’s trigger happy finger, has been down to the players. They’ve gone from extremely hot to excruciating cold on too many occasions. They can charge towards a league title in one year and then fail to finish in the top four the next.

The culture of continually replacing the manager at Chelsea means that they know the buck doesn’t stop with them, so if the rot sets in or they become too precious for criticism, then they simply down tools.

I doubt Pochettino will be able to change that mindset and surely he can’t believe he’ll get the time to do so.

At Tottenham, he has much more stability. The players have clearly bought into his philosophy and they’ve managed to qualify for the Champions League in the last three seasons straight. Chelsea won’t be in Europe’s most elite competition next season, which could see less high profile signings coming through the doors at the Bridge. Plus would Poch give up on that competition for a year in the hope of revitalising The Blues? That’s a big call.

Next season is a huge campaign for Spurs. They’ll be moving into the newly redeveloped White Hart Lane, which looks fantastic. I’d imagine that Pochettino and his squad will want to be part of such massive year for the club.

Much has been made of this statement that Mauricio made after his team’s final league game of the season:

“If we want to be real contenders for big, big trophies, we need to review a little,” 

“First of all, I need to speak with Daniel, then we will know what we are going to do.”

“I think it’s a moment the club needs to take risks and if possible work harder than the previous season to be competitive again.”

I think that this public plea along with the continued speculation linking the boss with other jobs, should  be seen as a demand for Spurs head honcho Daniel Levy to back his manager.

Obviously the new stadium will have cost an absolute fortune but it can’t become a thing that curtails the manager and his vision for the future.

I believe the Chelsea rumours will come to nothing this summer but that doesn’t mean that Levy shouldn’t see this as a big transfer window for Tottenham Hotspur. If he sells a top player or doesn’t give his manager the reinforcements that Mauricio Pochettino requires, then I’m not sure he’ll still be their boss next summer!

Winning World Cup Would Be Great Twenty Year Anniversary Gift For France

It’s crazy to think that France 98′ happened twenty years ago. That was a truly amazing World Cup with the hosts winning it with a 3-0 win over then reigning champions Brazil in the final.

Now we have another World Cup this summer, this time in Russia, and it could be the French side’s best chance to regain that famous trophy since that night back in July 98.

In 1998, France had a terrific squad and they were strong in pretty much every department. One of the leaders in the Les Bleus ranks was holding midfielder Didier Deschamps and he’s now the head coach of the national team. If anyone has the ability of recreating that winning spirit, then you’d like to think it will be him.

Yesterday the coach named his twenty-three man squad and like in 98′ it looks very healthy and well stocked with talent.

In fact when you look at the names missing from the pool going to Russia, you understand the great strength of depth Deschamps has to choose from.

A team of Benoit Costil, Mathieu Debuchy, Lucas Digne, Kurt Zouma, Mamadou Sakho, Adrien Rabiot, Moussa Sissoko, Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette and Wissam Ben Yedder would probably go far in any international tournament yet none of these stars has made the initial squad.

Deschamps was quick enough to tell us that he has an incredible amount of top class personnel to choose from:

“It is always hard to pick a squad like this because of the quality of the players we have and the competition in each position. I could only pick 23 players. I can’t please everyone. I make choices and I take full responsibility for them,”

The twenty-three men that have been selected, represent a bit of everything needed to do well in a major competition.

You have a nice blend of youth with experience, Didier is always conscious of have older leaders within his team. Even if they don’t start many games people like Adil Rami and Steve Mandanda will be important in the dressing room.

Although Didier has himself stated that there’s probably more young than old in those selected, it’s for a reason:

“Less experience, more ambition.”

There also seems to be a nice balance of creative talent and industrious players too.

Deschamps himself was known as the ‘water carrier’ and he’ll value what the likes of N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi give the side in terms of work rate, challenges and running.

You then have players like Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Lemar and Florian Thuavin in there to provide the tricks, passes and crosses needed to unlock the tightest of defences.

You should have plenty of goals in the team with Oliver Giroud, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Greizmann providing the main threats.

If Euro 2016 was anything to go by, then the French boss will rotate throughout the tournament. Having such a strong squad will help him in doing that. It’s also what happened back in 98 and it helps keep everyone happy as they all feel part of the journey!

You’d imagine that Group C rivals Australia, Peru and Denmark will struggle to contain the French in the opening games.

A problem the Les Bleus have had in the past has been their attitude. Some of their illustrious footballers have downed tools in previous campaigns and have seriously underperformed as a result.

It will be important for Didier Deschamps to have a happy, content camp. Hungry and ambitious players will be key but they can’t act up or form splinter groups. There has to be a party line and the whole squad need to know that they can’t cross it.

If the manager can keep his stars in check and have them all pulling in the same forward direction, then who knows maybe France can celebrate their first World Cup triumph by winning it again twenty years on!

Allan McGregor Back At Rangers – The Pros & Cons

Rangers announced this week that former number one Allan McGregor would be returning to Ibrox on a free transfer.

There will be plenty of debate doing the rounds as to whether or not this is a good signing for new Gers boss Steven Gerrard.

With that in mind I thought I’d take a look at the possible Pros and Cons, then weighing up my opinion on the deal. 

PROS:

Been There Done That

McGregor knows what’s expected of a Rangers goalie and he thrived playing under that pressure in the past.

He’ll come in and expect much higher standards from his defence. He’s also got a decent record against Scottish Premiership champions Celtic and isn’t going to be intimidated by their recent dominance or the Old Firm atmosphere.

Age

People might raise their eyebrows at McGregor being thirty-six years of age but I think that experience could be invaluable especially if Gerrard picks youngsters like Ross McCrorie in his backline.

The goalkeeper’s coming back to Glasgow after a few years playing in different leagues, so you’d hope he’s matured.

Winning Mentality

He will walk into the dressing room knowing he’s already won all the medals in Scotland’s top competitions. He will need to reinforce that mentality throughout the team but he seems keen to get back to winning ways at Ibrox:

“You need to win games and it doesn’t matter who you are playing.”

“Every game is an opportunity for three points and if you keep doing and doing that and doing that, as we’ve seen before that’s what wins titles.”

Bringing In More Funds

Allan’s arrival will probably see current shot-stopper Wes Foderingham departing Govan.

The Englishman has been one of the club’s better performers in recent seasons but with that comes the fact that you can get decent money in for him. I’d imagine Rangers will look to bring in at least £2m for him from an English side.

He’s A Good Goalkeeper

We sometimes forget that the Scotland international is still a very handy keeper. He was one of Hull City’s top performing player’s last term and the English Championship team’s fans have expressed sorrow at his departure on social media.

CONS:

Behaviour

The veteran has had plenty of on-field incidents and off-field sagas that have hit both sides of the newspapers.

What with ‘boozegate’ and receiving retrospective bans on his CV, Steven Gerrard will hope McGregor has learned his lessons (there’s been a few) and won’t cause any problems at Ibrox this time around.

Injury Record

Since leaving Rangers, the goalie has had quite a few injury setbacks. He’s had kidney trouble and a shoulder injury that’s seen him miss over a month on each occasion. Then there was the back surgery that kept him out for 237 days.

In the last five seasons, McGregor has missed a total of 48 games. Rangers can’t afford him to miss large chunks of a season. It should be noted that he did make 44 starts for The Tigers this season.

No Resale Value

Obviously being in his mid-thirties means that Rangers won’t get any transfer fee for the goalkeeper in the future. A lot of commentators and some Gers fans, will scrutinise Rangers transfer business this summer and expect young players with plenty of potential to come through the doors. Such talent can then be sold for a big profit in the future.

Although the more optimistic in the Ibrox stands will hope that the keeper can help teach either Robby McCrorie or Liam Kelly to become the next Rangers number one.

All in all, I believe as long as Allan McGregor can stay out of trouble and clear of injuries then it makes sense to bring him back. Especially if they can sell Wes Foderingham and use the cash to strengthen the team in another important area. 

Mikel Arteta To Arsenal Would Be Risky But Rewards Could Be Plentiful

It seems as though former Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta is now the frontrunner to become the next Gunners boss. He’s also the bookies favourite, the best price you’ll currently get is 4/11.

The former midfielder spent the last five years of his playing career at the Emirates, helping them to win the FA Cup in 2014.

After departing the North London club, Arteta has spent the last two years working under Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. This season ‘The Citizens’ secured a Premier League and League Cup double triumph, playing scintillating football as they marched towards the trophies.

While Pep understandably gets most of the plaudits for his team’s performances, Arteta is always at his shoulder and seems to be learning all the time.

The young Spanish coach seems to be one that likes to analyse the team as a unit and is also a good man-manager too.

Both Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling have improved greatly this season and the City manager claims Arteta was a big factor in that:

“Arteta has helped them both to make a lot of actions near to the box,”

“The qualities one against one, we say to the wingers when you receive the ball, if the control is good, the shape is good, go, go, it doesn’t matter if you lose the ball – try.”

Now I’ve been a keen admirer of Mikel since his teenage loan days at PSG. The creative middle man would then join Rangers and I saw him up close and he always stood out.

He had terrific vision, remained calm under pressure and could craft a lovely pass. The other thing I remember about Arteta in those days, was that he was always a quiet and shy young man. Yes he’d maybe get into a wee on-field scrape here and there but nothing major and not very often.

Even as he progressed at Everton and then moved onto Arsenal, he’d usually let his football do the talking. He’d become a responsible captain but one that led by example and not one that would shout and bawl at his teammates.

I didn’t automatically look at Mikel and think ‘there’s a manager in waiting’.

But clearly that ambition was in there and he has impressed the right people. To be handpicked to help Guardiola settle into life in England, shows you how highly regarded he is in illustrious footballing circles.

Let’s not forget that as a kid, Arteta was brought up through the FC Barcelona youth set-up. That education and being Pep’s number two at City will no doubt see the Spaniard being an attack-minded  boss, who’ll want to see his players press high and keep to a fast tempo.

That style would suit Arsenal down to the ground and have the home support enthralled.

Another plus in hiring Arteta would be that fact that he obviously knows the club and can use the best of Arsene Wenger’s methods.

Wenger always appreciated the Spaniard’s leadership qualities:

“He is very influential and he’s a leader – one of the leaders of the team and he’s a technical leader as well.”

Now appointing the rookie boss would certainly be risky. He’s still only thirty-six years of age and has never managed a football club before. Even that might work in his favour. Being young and fresh can mean that you’re full of new ideas that can catch the imagination of the squad. Then there’s the fact that he also doesn’t have any other bad marks on his CV, so players can’t prejudge him on failings from elsewhere.

Also being inexperienced will probably see Arteta concentrating more on what needs to be done on the training field. An experienced coach might walk in and demand more control of transfers or the club’s infrastructure but why have people like Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat at the Emirates and not use them to their full potential?

It’s time for Arsenal to hit the reset button; to try and get back to winning ways and to entertain the Gunners support again.

As I say, Mikel Arteta would be a risky option but it would also be a bold choice that has the right pedigree to bring in an exciting brand of football that should at least tick the entertaining box!

 

Which Outsiders Will Triumph At World Cup In Russia?

The World Cup is very nearly upon us.

The spectacle in Russia is not without controversy, from rigged bidding, to the risk of the over politicisation of the event looming over the finals. But one thing about the World Cup that makes it so great is that once the tournament kicks off, it’s all about the football.

Today we’ll take a look at a few outsiders that we think will do well.

Uruguay

When you have Luis Suarez in your team anything is possible. Providing he doesn’t bite anyone this time around, they have a great chance of going some distance in the finals. The partnership between Edinson Cavani and Suarez is as good as any, so we think they have a good a chance of going far this summer. It seems that the bookmakers aren’t as convinced as us, pricing them as high as 33-1 to win the tournament.

England

Constant underachievers at international tournament, England are priced at 16-1 to win in Russia. Now that is still probably too short a price, but with many bookmakers running special betting offers on the World Cup, you can get this boosted to 50-1. At that price it may be worth backing them to go all the way. This year the infamous British press seem resigned to another doomed bid for glory, so the pressure is off. Couple that with the fact that Gareth Southgate has opted for youngsters, the hope is that they will be hungry for success or will at least learn greatly from the experience.

Mohamed Salah For Golden Boot

Priced at 40-1 for Mo Salah to get the golden boot in Russia, that is an incredible price based on the season that he has just had for Liverpool. OK Egypt don’t have the same attacking flair that Liverpool have, but he’s just come off an incredible season and providing Egypt can progress from their group, we think he’s got every chance of defying the odds and having a truly influential tournament.

Why We Won’t Be Backing Neymar For the Golden Boot

Neymar is priced at 10-1 to pick up the top goalscorer award and we can’t say that is good value. He’s coming back from injury and that is never a good sign when you are playing at a tournament where you need to be at your absolute peak for success. If you want to opt for a front runner, Antoine Griezmann at 16-1 seems like a much better shout.

West Ham Utd And Crystal Palace Should Be Courting Xherdan Shaqiri

Unfortunately when teams suffer relegation, it’s usual for other clubs to assess players at the relegated sides and cherry pick who they’d like to see represent them next term.

Stoke City will have a few that will cause an interest from English Premier League sides. The Potters finished the season in the dreaded drop zone and the likes of Jack Butland, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye will probably have various suitors interested in them this summer.

Another name that will be linked with a move away from the Britannia Stadium in the coming months will be Xherdan Shaqiri.

People have complained that some of the players at Stoke had lost interest, were unprofessional and undermined the club. I don’t think we can point any fingers in the director of Swiss international.

He always seemed a driving force when he was playing in a Stoke City shirt and trying to make things happen. Now he does most of his work in the opposition’s half and with the ball at his feet but that still takes effort and Paul Lambert would’ve wanted more to show the same kind of attacking qualities as Xherdan.

Stoke coach Lambert was always quick to praise the attacking midfielder in the last few months:

“I think as I’ve said before he’s a real world class footballer”

The creative dynamo spent the season either as a number ten or wide on the righthand side.

Shaqiri topped the Potters goalscoring chart with eight goals and the assist table with seven assists in the league.

He’s a star who’s extremely versatile and who can play anywhere in the attacking positions. It’s hard to believe but Shaqiri is still only twenty-six years of age, he should be just hitting his peak years and he already has plenty of experience under his belt.

The former Basle, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan player is a very confident talent and he’s a man that can be lethal from any set-piece situation. He also has the vision to create an inch perfect cross or a defence splitting through ball.

He’d be a player that could enhance two London sides, who managed to survive the relegation battlefield; West Ham United and Crystal Palace.

The Hammers have just parted company with their boss David Moyes.

The Scotsman managed to keep the Irons up but arguably his greatest impact as their gaffer was to move Marko Arnautovic and play the big Austrian as a centre forward.

It was a stroke of genius decision as the attacker managed to grab eleven league goals and help propel the Hammers to a thirteenth spot finish.

The side looked balanced with Manuel Lanzini and Joao Mario playing behind the big man. West Ham are seemingly keen on keeping Portuguese star Mario but they still need to agree things with Inter. Lanzini had an injury interrupting season and the Argentine is always being linked with a move away from his current employers.

With all that in mind, then a move for Swiss juggernaut Shaqiri could be ideal for the next West Ham manager.

Both Arnautovic and Shaqiri enjoyed playing with each other at Stoke and they seemed to have developed a great understanding on the football pitch. You’d imagine if the Austrian is playing up-top next year, then he’d thrive with the Swiss internationalist playing in behind him supplying plenty of ammunition.

We all know West Ham love creative maverick and Xherdan could represent the same as a Paolo Di Canio or a Dimitri Payet.

Fellow capital side Crystal Palace could also do with a talent like Xherdan Shaqiri.

The Eagles would have a pretty impressive frontline if they could have Shaqiri, Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha playing behind Christian Benteke.

Belgian Benteke, didn’t have the best of scoring seasons at Selhurst Park during this campaign but I’d imagine the forward would manage to get back amongst the goals with a trio like that providing plenty of quality service from all angles of the field.

You’d also imagine that Palace manager Roy Hodgson would like to add another experienced face in his attacking ranks. The Stoke maestro can be a game changer and you can’t have too many of them in your squad, especially if Crystal Palace lose Zaha to a big money transfer during the off-season.

It’s probably true to say that Xherdan Shaqiri hasn’t quite lived up to the standards that his potential seemed to suggest he could during his early years in Switzerland. But the forward is still a very good talent, who on his day can terrorise most defences in England’s top flight.

It’s believed that he’ll be available for a paltry fee of just £12m and that should be enough to have teams like Crystal Palace and West Ham United beating down Stoke City’s door to talk to him.

I believe he’d love London life and would thrive in the capital given half the chance!